Postcards from Bali: 5 things to consider before retiring in Bali

Retiring in Bali

So you’ve been to Bali umpteen times, love the place and can see yourself living the dream. Or you’ve never been, but it sounds ok and a change is just what you need. Maybe you might be able to make that pension or retirement fund stretch a bit further. Funnily enough, my advice to either group would be very similar.

Read more: Postcards from Bali: An expats guide to Ubud

1. Come for an extended period before you make any decisions

I recommend six months, but make time for at least three. The lived experience is very different from the holiday experience. An extended period allows you to explore the different vibes of the locations you might end up in. It allows you to start building networks and it allows you to experience a range of weather conditions. Humidity and the rainy season can be challenging.

2. Know your visas

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The rules change surprisingly often. A 30-day holiday visa on arrival (VOA) is currently free for Australian passport holders, but cannot be extended. And 30 days is just that, not a month. If you pass through immigration at 11.30pm, day one is practically over. Many have been caught out by that one. A paid 30-day VOA (around $50) can be extended for another 30 days during your stay. Find an agent to take the hassle away and have 60 days to explore. A full 60-day visa can be also obtained beforehand from the Indonesian embassy or consulate nearest to you. Once it’s in your passport it won’t start to count until you arrive and you have a certain period of grace before you need to activate it. This 60-day visa (but not the 30+30 one) can be converted to a 6-month social visa while you are here, giving you another 4 months. Everything costs money of course and paperwork is required. Again, find an agent to steer you through. Retirement and business visas are worthy of a dedicated post, but they are options once you have done the groundwork.

3. Know yourself

Do you have an adventurous spirit? Are you resilient? Is this something you and your beloved both want to do? Or is one unsure? Point one will quickly sort that out. Do little things going wrong bug you? How often will you want to go back to see family? Will they want to come and see you?  

I get occasional emails from people we don’t know, friends of friends, who are thinking of making the move. I always reply and can tell from their response if this will be for them. Some say thanks for the food for thought, some don’t bother to reply and some inundate with follow-up questions and then email me a year later with the very same questions. The first group I don’t worry about. They will make a considered decision about what’s right for them. The second are probably a bit self-centred if they can’t find the time to thank me for the time spent answering their query. They will probably struggle with the day-to-day frustrations and possibly be perceived as arrogant by others. 

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But it’s the people who need every ‘t’ crossed and every ‘i’ dotted who I know will really struggle. Without the confidence to be self-sufficient, resilient and resourceful, making such a huge move might be more nightmare than dream. Become an expat in haste, and repent at leisure.

4. Consider your health

It’s a biggie. If you are fit and active and require little or no medication, you will find recommended medical clinics perfectly fine. I have received excellent treatment for unexpected shingles and UTIs, and after contracting dengue, my husband’s blood was monitored daily and supplemented by traditional remedies brought by our Balinese family. They have been treating dengue here for centuries and his was over in a week. We have been very happy with any dental work needed, again from recommended clinics. But if you have health issues requiring ongoing medication or monitoring this might not be for you, although some hospitals are now excellent. Expat health insurance over a certain age can be crippling and we don’t know anyone who can afford it so be aware of that. A retirement visa gets you 70% discount in hospital so that’s reassuring in an emergency. But more on health in a future post. 

5. Accommodation

Your initial visit is not the time to be making decisions but you can use these exploratory months to think about what you want. Will you build, buy or renovate? Ownership and leasing laws are complex, so become familiar with what is allowed or what might burn you (think very, very hard before agreeing to go into partnership with anyone).  Do you want live in a group of expat villas or away from others? Will a small family hotel work out to be just as cheap? With discounts for long-term residents, breakfast thrown in and a central location, this is a real option. Here in Ubud a group is currently exploring a Marigold Hotel concept. Might be fun, might be disaster but they are working their way through the issues. What about at home? Keep your house or sell? We sold and bought a small lock-and-leave apartment. Works for us, might not for you.

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Some of these considerations, and others, will be fleshed out in future columns if you’re still with me. Thanks for the feedback  after the first column. I also blog about our Bali life at Kebaya and Black Rice if you would like more.

Until next time.

Are you an expat living abroad? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below. 

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